Not your conventional biopic, this enthralling dramatic exploration of the legacy of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda conjures up a fiction in which he is pursued into political exile by an incompetent detective played by Gael García Bernal.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
In this dense and scintillating mix of fact and fantasy, Gael García Bernal reteams with No director Pablo Larraín to play an obsessive (fictional) detective on the trail of the famed Chilean poet-politician forced into exile in 1948.
“A work of such cleverness and beauty, alongside such power, that it’s hard to know how to parcel out praise… Neruda is not a biopic but an invention informed by biography, conjuring a richly detailed investigator with notions of self-grandeur who’s hunting the famed leftist writer-politician…
[Larraín] deftly mixes fiction with a form of truth, presenting Neruda not as the passionate romantic of his verse but a champagne communist very much tied to passing pleasures. Yet what Larraín makes clear by the finale is that who the artist is (any artist) is less important than what they inspire… Every bit the film’s protagonist as much as the poet, Peluchonneau [García Bernal]… serves as both Neruda’s nemesis and his creation, an ineffective plainclothesman assisting in the legend of the great man’s persecution.
All the performances are outstanding: Luis Gnecco plays Neruda with a sense of entitled vanity, which occasionally slips to reveal the character’s idealism and solidarity… But perhaps it’s García Bernal who makes the greatest impression… Humorous, straight-faced and channeling any number of noir detectives with a post-modern twist that finally gives that misused concept a good name, the actor quite simply shines, once again proving himself one of the smartest performers around.” — Jay Weissberg, Variety